Green Heart harvest Garden project hosts third annual dinner at Mitchell Elementary

The Green Heart Project will host its third annual Harvest Dinner today at Mitchell Elementary School. Students will provide tours of the garden.

Thanks to the Green Heart Project, students at Mitchell Elementary School have green thumbs.

The organization has been running a garden with third- through sixth-graders for three years and is hosting the third annual Harvest Dinner 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at the school.

While tickets are $10 for the community, $3 for Mitchell family members and $2 for Mitchell students, Executive Director Drew Harrison said the event is more of a “friend-raiser” than a fundraiser.

“This is really an opportunity to celebrate the students’ hard work and showcase it to their parents and the whole community,” Harrison said.

Chef Jamie Westendorf will provide the barbecue for the picnic-style dinner. Burke High School culinary students will help prepare a curry potato salad, mixed greens salad and snap bean succotash. Limehouse Produce will provide additional vegetables.

“It’s an honor to see the community embrace the students in a way that is really genuine,” said Ira Hill, culinary instructor at Burke High. The students also prepared the Mayor’s Christmas dinner last year and have another community event planned next month.

Hill said it is important for his students to understand the importance of the farm-to-table movement because it is part of their heritage.

Harrison said the garden not only provides the school with fresh fruits and vegetables like snap beans, collard greens and sweet potatoes for school lunches, but it is also a learning tool. Teachers are able to incorporate math and science lessons into work with the garden.

The students go out to the garden every other week with volunteers who also serve as mentors. “Volunteers help foster soft skills. We have three rules: respect yourself, respect your peers and respect the Earth,” Harrison said.

He said that teachers have seen students improve their behavior because they see tending to the garden as a privilege. “Their perception of fresh produce has been amazing to see develop over the past couple of years,” he said. Many of the students were not familiar with the different kinds of produce they grow in the garden because they’ve never been exposed to them.

Students will provide entertainment and tours of the garden at the Harvest Dinner. The school also has a new observable beehive from the Savannah Bee Co.

The garden is organic and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified. The main garden is 1/8 of an acre, about 5,500 square feet, and irrigated by a drip system with an automated timer using city water. Each grade is responsible for maintaining a portion of the garden.

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Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@